As Barbadians wait with bated breath to hear what the 2015 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals portend for them, they are being told to expect a continuation of Government’s fiscal programme, which has had success in turning the economy around.
This island’s Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who will deliver the much-anticipated budget on Monday, has disclosed that it was designed to bring stability to the island’s economy and ensure that public finances were brought back to a state of order.
According to him, this move would provide the necessary assistance to businesses so they could continue to cope with the economic situation and take advantage of existing opportunities.
In a wide-ranging interview, Sinckler said Government was working towards maintaining growth in the foreign reserves, reducing the fiscal deficit and improving the economy.
“We are not where we want to be obviously, but the fact that we have been able to turn an economic contraction into a situation where for the last couple quarters we are beginning to grow, it means the trajectory is going in the direction that we want it to go. . . .
“We have to ensure that the gains we made over the last 18 months by sticking together, by working together as a country and by ensuring that the Barbados programme which we fashioned is working. In the recent Article Four consultation report by the International Monetary Fund, they too have admitted that a turnaround has started in the Barbados economy and the deficit is coming down and the reserves have stabilised. The fact that we are getting that [response] means we are again as Barbadians demonstrating not just to the region, but the rest of the world, that we have the fortitude, the intelligence, the skills, the talent, the commitment and the determination to fashion our own programme, implement it and that we can do so successfully.”
Sinckler reiterated that Barbadians should expect a continuation of Government’s efforts to grow the economy, so positive results could continue to flow. He pointed out that the situation would be reversed
if the country went back to its old ways of doing business.
He stressed that Government’s focus was on putting the public debt on a downward trajectory so it becomes manageable. “For the coming financial year, we want to work towards the stabilisation of the debt situation so that we move from adding digits to the debt ratios to start subtracting. Once you get it stabilised by doing the measures that we are doing, then it is going to fall, so we can expect that.
“We will look at other aspects of our economy that can contribute to that, which entails a reform of the public sector and a reform of the real economic sector in terms of areas of sugar, commerce [and] business facilitation for investment. Those are the things that we intend to focus on from that side,”
The Minister of Finance stated that public sector capital works programmes and private sector projects were currently being undertaken or would be carried out to stimulate growth in the economy. He listed some of them as work on the old Sam Lord’s Castle Hotel; the extension of Berth Five at the Bridgetown Port; the new Sanitation Service Authority headquarters; a new hotel on Bay Street; and the construction of a number of villas and condominiums.
Sinckler said the enhancement of the delivery of social services in Barbados would also receive Government’s attention. He noted that one of the unfortunate effects of fiscal consolidation was its impact on social services, especially when done as sharply as Government has had to do it. He stressed, however, that Government was not prepared to undermine those critical human services as it reforms the economy.
“Barbadians will hear some discussion in the Budget and after that on issues pertaining to the financial sustainability of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the education system, and waste management . . . Those are the things we want to focus on in the next two financial years as we go forward,” he added.
So, as Government continues to focus on growing the economy, Barbadians can be sure that the measures to be outlined in this year’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals will act as a fillip to ensure economic growth is realized.